Tue, 29 Jan 2002 21:29:57 EST
> Some other states are, IMO, way behind in their weirdness-
> per-capita: New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania.
Nah, none that fancyshmancy stuff for us; we just got good old fashioned
payola in Illinoise. But since Bush followed Sen. Fitzpatrick's advice and
appointed an actual independent federal attorney who don't owe nuttin' to the
Daley-Ryan combine, t'ings is gettin' shook up over by dere. It's gotten
so's an alderman can't even clout his chinaman no more. They even arrested
the citystate's biggest insurance dealmaker yesterday .
As for me, come Saturday, I will have been computing for a living for 26
years. Longer than the average age of the chiquitas dancing with Irish
brains in French lounges. But I don't feel particularly old yet. 50's more
than a year off.
Rest insured, political pals feel Segal's pain
January 29, 2002
If you happen to see the politicians scratching at a case of unsightly hives,
don't worry. They're not contagious.
It's only a case of federal nerves.
The new U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, and the new FBI chief of the
Chicago office, Thomas J. Kneir, have been busily sending messages to the
Last week, they sent FBI agents into the Cook County Building on a ghost
The political payrollers were so terrified that they all showed up for work
the next day, clogging the building but rekindling long-lost friendships.
Next, federal subpoenas were issued in the investigation of the newly putrid
Rosemont casino deal.
And on Monday, the feds announced the arrest of a man who knows too much:
Mickey Segal, boss of Near North Insurance Brokerage.
Segal, a friend to many politicians, enemy to a few, was charged in
connection with a $20 million insurance, embezzlement and mail fraud scheme,
for allegedly dipping into client accounts.
You may remember Segal from this column. He has 17 acres of beautifully
landscaped property around his Highland Park mansion.
But he only pays $689 a year in property taxes for those 17 acres. It's
legal, because the 17 acres were assessed as "open land." Unfortunately for
picnickers, there's a big gate and a large wrought-iron fence, so it's not
Segal faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of insurance fraud. That
makes people nervous.
"Every guy in town who's done a deal with Segal is wondering about exposure,"
said a guy who knows Segal. "Naturally, that brings on the hives. It's
probably more of a rash. But use `hives.' It's nicer."
Segal is a friend of Gov. George Ryan, and he's had business relationships
with Ryan's son, George Jr. He also does insurance business with Mayor
Richard Daley's brother, John, a Cook County commissioner.
By dint of hard work and keen business acumen, Johnny brokered the insurance
through Near North for most of that wrought-iron fencing you see around the
In recent days, though, some of Segal's old pals have backed away.
"Don't call me a Mickey Segal guy anymore," Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) told
me a few days ago at City Hall. "I'm not a Mike Segal guy. Don't call me
There was a time when Burt would have changed the diapers on a carriage horse
on a hot afternoon in July and then applied powder rather than even think
about saying anything remotely negative about Segal.
But politicians can't abide weakness. It frightens them.
And for those wondering why reporters would spend so much time on an
insurance man, it's simple:
Segal's story explains how Chicago works.
For decades, Segal and George Dunne, the 42nd Ward Democratic committeeman,
controlled the downtown insurance business. They got oodles of government
clients and brokered insurance for private developers and real estate owners.
Paul Vallas, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, wouldn't do
business with Segal, and Vallas made an enemy.
But others provided Segal with plenty of tasty government work. It helped
maintain the political control of the 42nd Ward, which now encompasses all of
downtown Chicago, the richest insurance prize in the state.
The 42nd Ward organization also controls the 27th Ward, just west of the
Loop, where the real estate is booming. The new gentry needs insurance, too.
The 42nd Ward's political protege is Secretary of State Jesse White.
Recently, White has been embroiled in scandal. He's about finished in
politics. And Dunne is now an old man.
Though Mayor Daley's family might do business with Segal, and get a job or
two, the mayor is not close.
A top ally of Daley's has already moved into the 42nd Ward with designs on
running for alderman.
Once the 42nd Ward organization loses that election, it's over. Developers
and real estate owners are waiting.
Segal has not been to court, and the government must prove a complicated case.
But words issuing from federal prosecutors like "misappropriation" and
"converting to personal uses" and "$20 million" don't inspire confidence in
So other players must be straining to move into the vacuum. I called John
Daley at the County Building to see if he had thought of starting a new
insurance company--say, perhaps, Daley, Degnan & Joyce--to handle the prized
Unfortunately, John didn't return my call.
"Since 9-11, the FBI has been very busy on terrorist issues," said Kneir.
"But we're not out of the business of white-collar crime. And we'll continue
to aggressively pursue these types of cases. So stay tuned."
Copyright (c) 2002, Chicago Tribune
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